It usually starts innocently enough. You plan to go out for just one beer and maybe a few jalapeno poppers. The next thing you know, “happy hour” has turned into “wild night” and now it’s officially “miserable morning.” Your head is pounding, your mouth is dry, your stomach screams out in both hunger and nausea. Yup, your legendary night has led to an epic hangover.
The first thing you should do when you wake up with a hangover is assess where you are and who you are with. Do you recognize the room you are in? Are you in your own bed? If you are not alone, do you recognize the person sleeping next to you? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have problems that are bigger than just a hangover. I can’t help you there – you’re going to have to figure out how to solve those quandaries on your own. However, if you answered “yes” to the aforementioned questions and all you need is some advice on how to alleviate your nasty hangover, then you’ve come to the right place.
Quick Fix for Hangovers*
Blowfish, the first FDA-approved over-the-counter hangover pill, can speed up your recovery time. Each effervescent tablet contains 1000 mg of aspirin and 120 mg of caffeine (equal to a cup of coffee), which help to alleviate pain and make you more alert after a night of heavy drinking.
‘Hair of the Dog’: Does it Work?
Some people swear that “hair of the dog” is a foolproof hangover remedy, but it’s not really the best solution. Hair of the dog is when you have another alcoholic drink first thing in the morning to combat your existing hangover. This method actually works, but only for a very short time. When you are hungover, your body is working hard to fight off the alcohol in its system. If you consume another drink, your body will start working on the new alcohol, thus giving you a brief break on your hangover. However, your body will eventually have to battle all of the alcohol in your system – including the new drink – so unless you plan to drink forever (which I definitely don’t recommend), hair of the dog will only make your hangover worse.
Simple Ways to Ease Your Hangover Symptoms
Re-hydrate your body by drinking water. Alcohol causes dehydration, which in turn causes your muscle cramps, dizziness and thirst the next morning. The best way to quickly re-hydrate your body is by drinking a large glass of water right when you wake up, and then continue to sip water throughout the rest of the day. Fruit juices, vitamin water and sports drinks can also help replenish nutrients you lost the night before, but you should limit your intake of these beverages because the excess sugar found in many of them can upset your already sensitive stomach. Caffeine can also cause dehydration, so while one cup of coffee might make you feel more alert, too much coffee, soda or tea will actually make it harder for your body to recover.
Replace lost nutrients with a healthy snack or meal. A lot of us crave greasy, fatty foods – think tacos, bacon, French fries – after a night of partying. However, it’s better for your stomach and the rest of your body if you avoid the greasy spoon diner in favor of something a little healthier. If you’re feeling nauseous, aim for the same BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet that doctors recommend for patients suffering from the stomach flu or other gastrointestinal ailments. Bananas are an excellent choice because they are easy on the stomach and give your body potassium, which is depleted by alcohol. Eggs, crackers and broth-based soups are also good options because they will replenish your body without upsetting your stomach. Avoid dairy products until you are feeling better, as they can increase nausea.
Take a small dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever. A couple pills of ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin can help lessen your pounding headache and muscle aches. Midol, which is typically taken for premenstrual pain and fatigue, can also relieve some of the similar symptoms caused by a hangover. In addition, Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief tablets are specifically marketed as a way to ease hangover-induced nausea and pain. However, it’s very important that you don’t overdo it when it comes to pain relievers. Aspirin can irritate the stomach and excessive use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can cause liver damage (and your liver is probably already mad at you for drinking too much).
Get some light exercise. Most people don’t wake up with a hangover and immediately think, “Hey, a jog around the park sounds great right now!” However, unless you have severe nausea or muscle pain, a little exercise will help you feel better. Exercise stimulates brain activity and releases endorphins, which improve your mood and make you feel less sluggish. It’s best to avoid strenuous exercise when hungover (save your marathon for another day), but light exercise such as jogging, yoga and swimming will ease your hangover without exacerbating its symptoms. Be sure to drink plenty of water while exercising so you don’t become even more dehydrated.
Sleep it off. A hangover is your body’s way of punishing you for filling it up with junk (deliciously fun junk, but junk nonetheless). Alcohol can also disrupt sleep, so chances are you did not get your recommended eight hours last night. If possible, you should reward your body for putting up with all of your crap with a day of rest and relaxation. Since there is no instant cure for a hangover, what your body wants most is for you to sleep it off until the symptoms subside. I don’t necessarily suggest skipping work or school (your boss probably won’t accept “I’m hungover” as a valid reason to get out of work), but you will feel better if you can manage to squeeze in a couple extra hours of rest.
Natural Hangover Remedies
Bananas. The best food to eat when you have a hangover is a banana because it replenishes the potassium and fructose that your body lost through a night of heavy drinking. Bananas also calm nausea and contain magnesium, which relieves headaches.
Ginger. Ginger helps soothe an upset stomach and lessen dizziness. You can either take one 500 mg ginger capsule, or drink a ginger tea. To make your own ginger tea, place 1 and ½ cups of boiling water over 1 and ½ teaspoons of grated gingerroot. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, then strain the mixture into a large mug. Sweeten the tea with honey if the ginger flavor is too strong for your taste. This is also a great sore throat remedy.
Coconut water. Drinking 16 ounces of this increasingly popular beverage will re-hydrate your body and replace electrolytes and glucose that are lost through excessive drinking.
Wasabi bath. Wasabi, the spicy green paste that typically accompanies sushi, stimulates blood circulation and oxygenation of blood cells. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of wasabi to a warm bath and soak for as long as you can to release toxins from your body.
Asparagus. Studies have shown that asparagus boosts the enzymes in the body that are responsible for breaking down alcohol. Eating a few pieces of asparagus before and after drinking can help reduce your chances of having a hangover the next day.
Dandelion root. Taking two 500 mg capsules of the herbal supplement before drinking and two more afterwards will help to remove toxins from your liver and gallbladder. If you drink frequently, consider taking a dandelion root supplement every day.
How to Prevent a Hangover
Drink water before, during and after drinking alcohol. Fend off dehydration by having a glass of water between each alcoholic drink (a drink is defined as a bottle or can of beer, a glass of wine, a mixed drink or a 1.5-ounce shot). Sipping water between drinks also helps you feel full so you end up consuming less alcohol. And be sure to drink at least 12 ounces of water before you go to bed.
Eat a large meal before going out. Never drink on an empty stomach – it will speed up intoxication and lead to an especially heinous hangover the next day. Some people like to eat greasy foods before drinking because they think the grease will coat the stomach. While there is some truth to this, greasy foods and alcohol don’t always mix very well and can result in a serious stomachache. Ideally, you should have a hearty meal consisting of meat (fatty foods stay in the stomach longer, thus slowing down the absorption of alcohol), healthy starches and essential vitamins and minerals.
Stick to one type of alcohol. As legions of frat boys can attest, there is some truth to the old adage “Beer before liquor, never been sicker.” By mixing different types of alcohol, you are also putting a variety of different additives, flavorings and ingredients into your body, which can result in a massive hangover when combined. Mixing beverages can also make it harder to keep track of how many drinks you’ve consumed, thus leading you to drink more than you planned.
Drink light-colored booze. Dark-colored alcohols (like whiskey, bourbon, brandy and red wine) contain congeners, which are toxic substances created by the fermentation process and known to cause hangovers. Light-colored alcohols (vodka, gin, white wine) have fewer or no congeners, which means they are less likely to cause a hangover.
Know your limits and stick to them. Not to get all preachy or anything, but the best way to avoid a hangover is to not overindulge in the first place. How much you can drink depends on numerous factors, including your weight, tolerance level and how much you’ve eaten that day. The average person’s liver can absorb about one alcoholic drink an hour, so try to stick to that limit if you don’t want a hangover the next day. Be especially careful about limiting your intake when trying new types of alcohol since you don’t know how your body will react to them.